The above illustration, "Blowing Bubbles," has been adapted for use here by generous permission from the artist, Cyril Rolando.

August 19, 2011

The 411 on PULP INK

Okay, full disclosure: I have a story in the PULP INK anthology. Presumably this creates a conflict of interest in any attempt on my part to review it. Well, hah! I say, and hah, again! (I'd say something stronger, but I save those words for my stories and close friends. And politicians.)

Sure, this means I'm not likely to say bad things about the anthology. But it doesn't necessarily follow that the good things I'm about to say regarding PULP INK are thereby false. In fact, you can strap me to a lie detector and test my veracity: There are some exceptionally fine stories in this collection. Were that not the case, I would go to some lengths to pretend I had no part in this whole scheme, instead of parading the fact that I got a story placed in the same book as -- ahem! -- Allan Guthrie. As Reed Farrel Coleman. As Hilary Davidson. As Gary Phillips. Not to mention a host of other excellent writers whose names are not (yet) so well-known.

I'm not going to beat you over the head with details on each and every story. There are 24 of them, for crying out loud, and I can't sit here holding your hand all day long. So these are my very most ultra-favorites in this collection. Each of them alone, I promise you, is worth the $2.99 USD price of admission:

  • ZED'S DEAD, BABY by Eric Beetner. I've already said it in other places around the 'Net, and it bears repeating: This is a terrific story: fast-paced, tightly written, sharply focused. The protagonist, an enforcer type, is on the hunt for Zed, to do a little, uh, enforcing. But everyone says Zed is dead. Everyone has a reason to lie, too. But it isn't really enforcement until someone loses a finger, is it? This one will have you grinning wickedly and will make your thumbs ache. And not because you're using an e-reader with poor page-turning features.
  • YOUR MOTHER SHOULD KNOW by Allan Guthrie. Oh, the lengths little Masie will go to prove to her love for young Billy. May lightning strike her down if she's lying. Nobody does personality disorders quite like Guthrie. Scary good with that, he is.
  • YOU NEVER CAN TELL by Matthew C. Funk. Nina's baby is near to saying his first word. Nina's husband is near to killing his fourth man in this perfect tale of revenge and genetic redemption. Possibly my favorite of all of Matthew's stories, and that's saying something: This guy has a Spinetingler win under his blotter.
  • A WHOLE LOTTA ROSIE by Nigel Bird. You can have a good laugh with Rosie. You just can't laugh at her. This one has a sad, skewed feel, and is written in Bird's signature style of short, brisk strokes that imply more than they say.
  • CLOUDS IN A BUNKER by David Cranmer. A hostage stand-off in which a WWI bomb expert threatens to take out himself and the missus. What kind of killer puts the police negotiator on hold while he sees to the teakettle? For anyone who thought Cranmer's best work was the Western tales done under his Edward A. Grainger pseudonym, have another think while I just go and check that bloody teakettle.
  • THE WIFE OF GREGORY BELL by Patricia Abbott. Here's a story Rod Serling would have jumped all over for his Twilight Zone series. Every time Gregory's beautiful and beloved wife goes on a business trip, Greg indulges in a little criminal activity. And each time he does, his wife comes home with a new and bigger flaw in her looks. But that can't have anything to do with his bad behavior. Can it?
  • THE OCTOBER 17 ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE MEETING by Chris Rhatigan. A reporter writes himself into a corner. Then illustrates his stories with a shotgun. This may be the one time he doesn't really want to make headlines, but it's a little too late to do the 'write' thing now. 
  • THIS LITTLE PIGGY by Hilary Davidson. A foot massage can go too far. Especially when it doesn't go far enough.
  • THE ONLY ONE WHO COULD EVER REACH ME by Matt Lavin. Willie has the world's worst job, with the worst co-worker. And the most dangerous of employers. After all these years, why would he risk their wrath now.? A poignant take on the old story of, the old glory of love.

 And if you go so far as to read all of those, you might as well spend a couple of minutes and read my story, too. Triple-dog dare ya!

      August 16, 2011

      REVIEW: TWO-WAY SPLIT by Allan Guthrie

      Ex-concert pianist Robin Greaves has been off his meds for sometime when he discovers his wife, Carol, is cheating on him with friend Eddie. Except cheating doesn't include actual sex. Robin wants Eddie dead, but first this eccentric trio has to pull off a robbery. They get the money all right, but in the process Robin kills a woman whose son, a vengeful ex-con named Pearce, is not content to sit and grieve. So Pearce is after Robin, who has the money, is after Eddie, who is after the money. What Carol wants, who knows? But there's one more character, the wildly unpredictable Don, who may be the most dangerous of them all and who personifies the book's title. Turns out splitting the money is the least of anyone's worries. Coming out alive will be a winner-takes-all game.

      Author Allan Guthrie is a successful writer, agent, and editor. What he doesn't know about crime fiction as an art and as a business probably isn't worth knowing. Too often that kind of intimate knowledge about writing and the business of writing can make for somewhat sterile reading as a kind of "checklist for a successful story" comes into play. Not so with this canny Scotsman. TWO-WAY SPLIT has the snappy, hardboiled feel of having come straight from the old pulp publishers' boiler rooms, but with time enough for a few laughs along the way. Dark laughter.

      This is a fast-moving, blackly comic action tale, occurring over less than 48 hours, with character scene-splits occurring sometimes only moments apart. As with Guthrie's other works, this one left me wishing he were more prolific. TWO-WAY SPLIT was shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger award and went on to win the Theakston's Crime Novel Of The Year in 2007 (besting books by the likes of Stuart MacBride, Michael Jecks, and Christopher Brookmyre).

      Amazon Kindle: $0.99

      Amazon, Paperback

      August 15, 2011

      Pulp Ink will tattoo YOU.

      PULP INK has arrived. Twenty-four stories of highly diversified pulp from authors as well known as Reed Farrel Coleman, Allan Guthrie, and Hilary Davidson; and as unknown as, well, yours truly. I'm thrilled to have a story resting cheek by jowl with theirs. (Okay, really, my story is sandwiched between Richard Godwin's and Jimmy Callaway's, and what's that say about me, I'd like (or not) to know?)

      And because I worked hard on this story and someone damned well ought to read it, I'm giving away THREE copies (from amazon Kindle or from Smashwords). And even if you don't like my writing, you must read Eric Beetner's story, Zed's Dead, Baby. If you don't like that one, better check your own pulse to see if it's any stronger than Zed's.

      The first three people to email me at mentioning PULP INK will win these freebies! Good luck! 
      John Kenyon, Brian Lindenmuth, and Brad Green have each won a free copy of PULP INK. Congratulations, guys, and thanks for playing!